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Extension of Tenure Must Not be in Contradiction with Statutory Provisions: High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh at Jammu

The extension of tenure of a Committee, being against the mandate of the Jammu and Kashmir Sikh Gurdwaras and Religious Endowment Act, 1973, was quashed by the HIGH COURT OF JAMMU & KASHMIR AND LADAKH AT JAMMU, before the bench consisting of the Hon’ble Justice Sindhu Sharma in the matter of Satinder Singh and Ors. vs. U.T. of J & K and Ors. [WP(C) No. 1174/2020], on 31.12.21.

The facts of the case are that the petitioners seeks quashing of notification dated 13.07.2020 issued by the respondents extending the term of Gurdwara Prabandhak Committees for a period of three months from the date of expiry of their term or till elections are held. They also seek a direction to the respondents to initiate the process of election for electing members of different Gurdwara Prabandhak Committees at the earliest to manage the affairs of the Gurdwaras in UT of Jammu and Kashmir. The petitioners are members of the Sikh Community by faith as defined under clause “e” of the Jammu and Kashmir Sikh Gurdwaras and Religious Endowment Act, 1973. They are also registered voters in terms of Rule 5 of the Jammu and Kashmir Sikh Gurdwaras and Religious Endowment Rules, 1975. The last elections of the District Gurdwara Prabandhak Committees of Jammu and other Districts to look after the affairs of Sikh Gurdwaras were conducted on 08.07.2015 and the tenure of these Committees as per Section 13 of the Act is only five years and the same came to an end on 10.07.2020. The process for elections for constituting new District Gurdwara Prabandhak Committees was required to be initiated before the expiry of the said period, so that the new committees could take charge, start functioning and for managing the affairs of the Gurdwara. The grievance of the petitioner is that the respondents, instead of initiating the process of elections after the expiry of the term of District Gurdwara Prabandhak Committees, issued impugned notification dated 13.07.2020 extending the period of these District Gurdwara Committees for a period of three months from the date of expiry of their term or till elections are held, whichever is earlier. By the impugned notification dated 13.07.2020, the respondents have granted extension to the tenure of these committees for a period of three months, from the date of expiry of their term or till elections of these committees are held, whichever is earlier. The period of three months also came to an end on 13.10.2020 and thereafter, no further notification in terms of the rules has been issued. The petitioners are aggrieved of the aforesaid notification as the same is against the mandate of the Act and the Rules.

The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh at Jammu, noted that a bare perusal of the notification dated 13.07.2020 reveals that no reason for recording the satisfaction in writing has been given, while passing the impugned notification. The Government in terms of the Rule 63C had to nominate the members of the Committee and not to extend the tenure of the Committee after expiry of the term, therefore, the impugned notification, on the face of it, is against the mandate of Rule 63C of the Act. The notification, however, has lapsed with time as it was for a period of only for three months or till elections are held whichever is earlier. The Court also noticed that record reveals that an application on behalf of Sant Pal Singh was filed seeking a direction to defer the elections of Gurdwara Prabandhak Committees till May, 2021. Mr. Nanda, learned Sr. AAG submits that due to outbreak of 2nd wave of Covid-19 pandemic and unprecedented situation, the respondents have not conducted the elections which was deferred and any other arrangements, according to him, will be made only after review of the same in consultation with the Divisional Administration. The Court held that the respondents could not have extended the term of the District Gurdwara Prabandhak Committees of various Districts beyond the term of two years in terms of SO 218 as the same is not as per the mandate of Rule 63C. In any case, this notification has otherwise also outlived its life. The Court thus held that the Gurdwara Prabandhak Committees which are presently looking after the affairs of the Gurdwara are continuing unauthorisedly in office and cannot not be allowed further to continue in such a manner. The writ petition was accordingly disposed of and the Government was directed to ensure that none of the members of the erstwhile Committee, whose term has expired, are nominated as members and the Committee be constituted of independent persons of high integrity and social standing within a period of three weeks. It was also directed that the Government may also initiate the process of conducting elections to the Gurdwara Prabandhak Committees of Gurdwaras of the Union Territory, in accordance with the provisions of the Act of 1973 expeditiously.

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Judgement reviewed by Bhargavi

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